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Was there ever life on the moon? What about on other planets?

With the U.S. slated to blast off soon to orbit the —its first trip there in 50 years—the University of Virginia and NASA's Artemis space missions seek to answer big questions like these, while pushing the scope of what can be analyzed on alien soils.

The new collaborative research will take the form of a roving, ground-level probe. It won't be done in time for this first unmanned launch, of course.

Instead, the technology could be part of a future mission to the moon—and perhaps beyond. The is also contemplating putting humans on Mars.

"The basic idea of this NASA-funded project is to obtain biological and elemental signatures, as well to detect surface morphology, to determine whether there was any life," said engineering professor and principal investigator Mool Gupta, in whose laser lab a key portion of the technology will be created.

"Certain types of chemical composition could tell us if there was life there. And by scanning, there may be trace evidence of biological life in the form of cells."

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